CNN U.S. News

Democrats fan out to fight for Medicare

September 16, 1995

From Correspondent Bob Franken

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Now that Republicans have released the bare outline of their Medicare plan, the president has weighed on what he'll do if it isn't changed.

"If these health care cuts come to my desk of this size, I would have no choice but to veto them," Clinton said.

Other Democrats fanned out across the country, ramping up their opposition to the Republican plan. A rally in Democratic Rep. George Miller's California district was typical.

"Medicare must be protected, not gutted. That's what we have indicated in these petitions, and that's where we will support you in your fight," senior activist Myron Herrell told Miller.

Although the center of the debate is in Washington, it's not necessarily in the Capitol. Democrats say they'll launch four weeks of hearings on the Capitol lawn next week if Republicans don't give them a room.

House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt threw down a new challenge.

"I challenge Speaker (Newt) Gingrich to a full and open debate on his Medicare plan -- without a moderator -- so that we can question each other, person to person, and discuss these issues in a substantive and responsible way," he said. (183K AIFF or WAV sound)

No debate, said Gingrich, until Gephardt and his troops come up with their own Medicare plan.

Gingrich was selling his plan with Ross Perot before a friendly gathering at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Perot said he's not supporting the Republican proposal, just the idea that they've produced one. "It takes a lot of courage to touch this alligator, 'cause it'll bite you," Perot said.

No stranger himself to the catchy sound bite, Gingrich said the 30-year-old Medicare program needs a tune-up. "Those people who want to keep us trapped in the old ways are saying, 'Oh no, how can you begin to offer senior citizens a 1995 car; it's our duty to keep them in that 1964 car.'" (153K AIFF sound or 153K WAV sound)

Republicans have announced they'll hold at least one official hearing on the Medicare plan next week. Otherwise, expect the debate to go on in many venues, across the country: at the White House, the Capitol, and even the lawn of the Capitol.

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